Life Lessons Learned From the Treadmill

I have said before that I like to think myself a runner. Most of my steps logged were taken on treadmills. Since I spend most of my miles here, staring at the same walls, I have much time to think about anything and probably everything. Over the last few years I have come to realize that you can learn a lot about life, from the rules of the treadmill and working out. Here are a few of the life lessons I have gleaned from my time on the running machine.

1. Stop and Pause

I noticed that there are two distinct buttons on the treadmill-“Stop” and “Pause”. At first glance one could assume that they have the same function, but they don’t. The “stop” button is literally the button to push when you are done with the workout. Push this big red bar and your workout is over. The “pause” button is a bit different. With this small, unassuming button, you can pause your workout and resume right where you left off.

In life, these buttons may look exactly the same. There are many, I mean many, times when we desperately want to hit the stop button, so that we can take a break from the pain, catch our breaths, and then keep going when life slows down just a bit. The truth is, we don’t need the stop button, we need to hit pause. It is hard to realize the permanency of the big, red bar in the engulfing exhaustion of life. The great news is, there is a pause button that we can push, so that the stop button isn’t our only choice.

2. Suiting Up for the Workout- One Size Does Not Fit All

One of my biggest pains, is a pair of ill-fitting workout leggings. They were the perfect when I started losing weight. The perfect amount of stretch, and the perfect amount of hold it all in. The problem came when the pants were part of the weight loss process and had seen all of the highs and lows of my weightloss journey. They finally gave in and the stretch gave up on me. Time and time again, I still wore my tried and true leggings, and spent most of the time yanking them up. This is a terrible thing to see and to deal with when running, or trying to run, on a treadmill.

One day while I was fighting the battle of the britches, I was reminded of a young David who was about to be in the battle of his life. King Saul thought it a great idea to pass on his tried and true armor on to this young warrior. The problem was, this suit of armor was fitted to King Saul and was the wrong size for David. One size did not fit all. The wisdom of David proved greatest when he recognized that this armor didn’t fit his smaller frame and would be cumbersome for him. He knew he needed a suit that would fit him for the battle he had to face.

I realized this was true about me, too. I needed to put off the workout pants that no longer fit me and purchased a couple of pairs of leggings that fit perfectly on my new, smaller frame. My ability to face the battle ahead of me, for my health, became more attainable with the properly fitting clothing.

3. No Need to Impress

My desire to impress others, or have others like me, has always been a struggle for me. This is painfully true on the treadmill as well. I can be running with a great stride, have total control over my breathing and just be on a total runners’ high when someone walks over to the treadmill next to me and it all crumbles around me. Suddenly, my heart is beating out of my chest, I can’t find my groove, and my breathing is all out of whack. I have become so insecure, worrying what they think about my pace, my stride, my form, my everything, and I lose sight of why I am there in the first place.

Sadly, I have struggled with the same behaviors in my day to day life. I have worried about what others thought about my faith walk, my parenting choices, my marriage, how I dress, my everything. You name it, I have likely worried that someone disapproved of it. When I fix my thoughts on what others may think of me, I lose my footing, my stride, my confidence, my anxieties crop up and I lose sight of why I am here in the first place.

But when I remember my purpose for going to the gym, I remember the progress I have made and that I deserve to be there. I am thankful for the chance to make a difference in my health and my family’s future. And when I fix my eyes on this, and not the others around me, who honestly probably don’t even see me, I run with a beautiful cadence, and maybe even grace like a gazelle. Probably not, but its fun to think I do.

When I focus on who God says that I am, and His approval of me and grace over me, I am confident, certain, comfortable in my own skin. I am not fearful of what others are thinking of me because I know I am operating in what He has called for me.

4. Listen to Your Body

Last night, we decided to go to the gym. It was after 10pm and the gym was a barren wasteland. Do you know what that means? I can have my favorite treadmill and noone is breathing down my neck to stick to the strict timeline of 30 minutes and noone is watching me or critiquing me (please see above if you have forgotten why this is such a big deal to me). Anywho, I was on the treadmill, the perfect running song was tuning out the thud of my cadence, and my left thigh cramped up. Not too bad, but enough that I could hear myself telling you in this blog to “listen to your body.” So I did. Much to my great frustration, I didn’t run. Don’t think I didn’t try three more times, but each time, my thigh started to tighten and I noticed my shins were beginning to join in the festivities. So I walked. I walked flat. I walked on an incline. Bored to tears and frustrated that I couldn’t seize such a perfect running opportunity. But while walking, I really thought about how this applies to life. What is the life lesson from this?

I think there is a ridiculous amount we could glean from this shin splint, thigh cramp, listen to your body moment. But let’s park here. As a woman, no as an adult, in our American culture, we are spoon fed the sugar covered idea that busyness is next to godliness. We buy into this notion with all that we have and even begin feeding it to our children. Think we don’t? How many lessons, practices, games, tryouts, etc are your schlepping your kids around to this week alone? How many tense, frustrated, resentful moments have you had at the hand of this unrelenting schedule? I know. Me too.

We to going so long, hard, and fast in this unforgiving rat race that we often do so at the cost of, you guessed it, our health. How many times have you wished you had time to try out that healthy recipe, but had to drive through on the way to the next thing? What about stating after another week, “I just don’t have any time to workout!”? Our busyness is robbing us, and our families, of so much more, but foundationally, it is taking our health, or should I say we are willfully handing it over? Trust me friend, what you are reading is my own dialogue to myself.

We have to listen to our bodies. We have to notice the cramps, aches, pains, the signals that are telling us that we cannot keep up this pace. It is crucial. We have to dial back the busyness so that we can hear the rhythms of our own bodies. They are talking to us. We have to listen, and respond.

5. You Can’t Always Keep the Same Pace

Profound right? Have you ever tried running on an incline? It is terribly difficult. Not impossible, but really difficult. Sometimes it just makes sense to slow down. I have tried to run uphill and I just don’t advise it. Slow that speed down and take safe steps.

Life is no different. Sometimes life is unbearable and it is challenging to keep going if you insist on taking it at the same speed. It’s not impossible, but is is challenging to say the least. Sometimes, life needs us to rest. Sometimes we have to say no to some things, so that we can say yes to a slower, attainable pace. A slower pace will make the journey alot more intentional as you make your trek.

6. Don’t Get Distracted

When I run, I know, looking at it one might call it more of a thuddy jog, but when I do this motion, I have to stay focused. There is this pea-sized indentation in the wall that is in front of my favorite treadmill. It is a little hard to see sometimes, but when I can see it, I try to fix my eyes on it. When my eyes are on it, I can find a groove and tune out the world around me. When I look up at the TV hanging slightly, I mean only slightly, in front of me, I lose my footing and often feel like I am going to fall. When I check my phone, because the stupid notification won’t stop blinking at me with its come hither blink, I inevitably risk major malfunction, almost tripping over my own feet. And when I look up at the people walking by, or worse, the person next to me running like a perfect gazelle, you guessed right again, I am a mess and loose my step again.

Ever get distracted? Nah, I didn’t think so. Of course you do!! So do I! All of the time! In fact, I just took a two minute break to run to the restroom, decided to move the washer to the dryer, clean the sink, get a bottle of water, and check and respond to social media posts and comments. Hello distractions.

What this also looks like, is distraction from my purpose and passions. When I look up at all of the things going on in the world around me, I get discouraged and lose heart. When I look at the dang notifications on my phone, I get distracted by the need for approval and the lack thereof and I lose sight of my purpose and belief that it is my passion still. When I look at those around me, I see their success and though I am happy for them, I am somehow teleported to the land of unhappiness and jealousy and I lose hope that I too, will be successful. But when I look for God, who is right in front of me, sometimes very hard to see, I operate in this boldness and confidence that I am called to do great things and He has a purpose for me and fills me with His passion! I forget the rejections, failures, discouragements, and I see His approval and victory over my life. I see His grace. I see His favor.

7. Don’t Worship the Numbers

One of my daughters is a Navy girl. When she went to boot camp, one of her entry level requirements was a need to run a mile and a half in eighteen minutes or less. Not being able to communicate with her the first few weeks, my husband and I decided we would join her in spirit, by trying to run a similar time as she was required to run. We were both able to conquer her start time, but in the process, I became obsessed with the numbers.

I obsessed about the time I ran the mile and a half in. I obsessed about the average rate of speed at which I was running. I obsessed just how far below I could get under her required times. And I certainly obsessed about time when I could tell I wasn’t making my goal. This became a form of worship, worshiping the numbers: time, rate of speed, all of it! This last week, a year after her entry into the service, I decided to try my hand at my mile and a half. I found myself worshiping the numbers all over again. Last night, not being able to run, was a humbling reminder of what I was doing again.

A goal pursued is great, but a goal worshiped is not ok.

8. Don’t Forget to Stretch

In life and in workouts, stretching and preparation are a must. I have done many a workout, with nary a stretch of this or that, and dealt with pain as a result. Think back to last night’s walking session. Let it all come into focus. Right, I didn’t stretch the day before when I crushed that big goal. You can bet your bottom dollar I did last night! Life is no different.

When we rush right into our circumstances without proper preparation, we face difficulties and hardships. We must put on our well fitting armor and seek godly wisdom and direction. But we must first stop to pray and seek the one who has the bird’s eye view of our lives. Our view is so limited. So two dimensional. This prayer preparation is also the perfect way to bring our circumstances to a close. Just like the importance of stretching after a run, tuning into our Father is important in life’s challenging, uphill moments.

The moral of this blog: when we are teachable, we can glean much from walking, running, or just thudding along on a treadmill. The truth is so much can be learned from any aspect in life, when you allow yourself to be taught. So, be on the lookout for life’s little lessons. You may have to slow down the speed on your life to see them, but I assure you, they are there for the taking.